Yorkshire Marathon 14 October 2018 – By Mark George
This race wasn’t supposed to be one I would be taking part in this year. My main aims for 2018 were London Marathon in April and then Race to the Stones in July.
I was then going to take a well-earned rest over the summer. However, all that changed post London Marathon. I had trained harder than ever over the cold, freezing winter months and was in the best condition I’d ever been in on the start line of a Marathon. That PB was mine for the taking. Unfortunately mother nature threw a spanner in the works and it was above 24 degrees and wall to wall sunshine. Great to sit in a beer garden with a cold pint, not so great for running 26.2 miles as fast as you can. The result was a disappointing 10 minutes slower than my PB.
So in a fit of self-pity I found myself at home entering The Yorkshire Marathon.
Training over the summer went okay but not ideal. Due to running Race to the Stones in July and needing recovery after that, I followed a 12 week plan as opposed to my usual and favoured 18 week plan. I would say overall, the training was unspectacular, mostly average runs punctuated with some terrible sessions and only a few where I “nailed” it.
About a week out from the race and I’m well into the taper period, looking forward to Thursday when I can start carb loading. I’ve done my last run which requires any speed (and therefore suffering) and I’m disappointed with the spilts of the 2 miles I’ve just run at marathon effort pace. They felt harder than they should and were a fair bit slower than I was aiming for. My confidence is not high and anyone who knows me will tell you I was all doom and gloom about my prospects of a good race. At least the weather forecast for Sunday was decent with light winds, scattered sunshine and temperatures of around 12 degrees.
A few days pass and that weather forecast is replaced with wall to wall heavy rain and lower temperatures 🙁
I go to bed the night before the race not really looking forward to running. Surprisingly I sleep really well and am woken by my 5 year old son, just 5 minutes before my alarm was due to go off.
Well rested, I have my usual pre marathon breakfast, heeding that age old advice of “nothing new on race day”. Into the car and my wife drops me off at York university. It’s around 2 hours before the race starts and I’m surprised by how quiet it is. I’ve run this race the previous 3 years and it was always busy at this time with people being dropped off. Maybe people have stayed away as long as possible due to the rain?
I make my way over to the Exhibition Centre on campus where I know there is a coffee shop and somewhere to stay out of the rain. There are also some indoor toilets that are much more preferable to the porta loos lined up outside. Unfortunately, this year, the organisers have decided that these toilets are only for the use of runners taking part in the corporate relay 🙁
I find a seat in the coffee shop and soon see a couple of familiar faces. Mr and Mrs Davy have arrived, both of whom are taking part in their first marathons. We have a chat and share stories of training and hopes for the race. It’s clear we are all bursting with nervous energy.
Time ticks by and it’s time to join the queues for the porta loos. Never has there been a more miserable queue pre race. Incessant rain falls and in no time at all I’m soaked through my (not very) waterproof.
A short while later, I’ve dropped my bag off and am making my way along the 5 minute walk to the starting area. On the way I bump into a few more Harriers and we are all already soaked and shivering. If London 2018 is now known as “The hot one”, Yorkshire Marathon 2018 will go down as “The wet one”.
It’s 09:30, the countdown finishes and we are on our away.
I resolve to take the first few miles easy and take stock at the 10k marker. As we head away from the University towards the City of York itself I can see not only the 3:15 pacer in the distance, but also the 3:30 pacer. I think I’m in shape for a good stab at 3:15 if I pace it well, so it appears I have started too far back in the pens once again. However, instead of letting it get to me, I just settle down and try and get into a good rhythm and avoid weaving in and out trying to make up lost time too early.
Just under 2 miles in, we approach York Minster, bells ringing out, and this is where my wife and son will be supporting. I know they will be on my left, but there is a huge sea of faces all in big coats, hoods pulled up or underneath umbrellas and I’m not confident of seeing them. Luckily I do spot them, just in time for a quick high 5 with my son.
Just after passing by the Minster we head out of the City walls and towards the countryside. The road continues mostly flat with just a few undulations up to the 10k timing mat near the village of Stockton on the Forest. Since the race first ran in 2013, the local villagers realised that road closures would affect their usual Sunday Church service. Instead of getting all upset about it, they delay the Church service and line the streets offering encouragement and high fives to everyone. Whilst I am in no way a religious man, I high five the vicar just in case. A bit of divine intervention would be really useful around now 🙂
I cross the 10k timing mat, in just under 45 minutes. That is a little faster than I thought I’d be at this stage and have to decide whether to slow down a bit or keep on going. I feel fine, I’m not breathing too heavily so decide to try and stick to the pace as long as possible. If it all falls apart later in the race, so be it. It wont be the first time!
The course bears off to the right as we head towards the villages of Upper Helmsley and Sand Hutton. As we do, there are Scottish pipers and drummers braving the weather providing a much needed lift. I’m not feeling too bad at all (apart from cold and wet) as we approach the 20k timing mat just outside Stamford Bridge and have managed to maintain a pace of around 7:15 minute miles since the 10k point. Time on my watch as I cross the mat is just under 1:29. At the time it doesn’t occur to me that I have slightly sped up over the second 10k.
At 13.5 miles we turn left down the hill to Stamford Bridge. It’s at this point you see a constant stream of runners on the other side of the road, who having already made it to Stamford Bridge, turned around and headed back up the road. This is by far the most boring stretch of the race. From the turn around point there is over a 4 mile straight stretch along open road to a second turn around point after which you once again head back on yourself before finally heading towards civilisation. All in all there is about 6 miles covered on this stretch of road.
I was very grateful to hear cheering and my name at around the 16 mile marker. I wondered who in their right mind would be stood out in the wind and rain at this point on the course. I looked up and caught site of Suzanne and Helen from club. It was great to see familiar faces out there just when spirits are falling. Well it was until Suzanne shouted out such inspirational encouragement as “Urry Up!!!!”
After the second turn around point its uphill to the 30k timing mat. It’s a 1.5 mile uphill slog until the turn off towards Holtby and it really drains strength from you. I cross 30k in just under 2:14. I’ve managed to maintain pace of around 45 minutes for each 10k. However, that hill has really taken its toll and for the first time in the race, my legs are hurting. So are my knees and my breathing has become much more laboured. This is where my race will be made or broken.
I can’t really remember much about the next 10k apart from it was along more interesting, winding roads and we passed through a few villages. My mind had it’s hands full with trying to keep my legs going and fighting the urge to slow down or even stop.
40k finally comes up in a little under 3 hours. I’ve managed to hang on only losing a minute or so.
There is just under 1.5 miles to go. It’s only now that I realise how close my PB is. I try to work out what pace I need to average to have a chance. I know my PB is 3:09:40 but maths becomes impossible. I just know I have just over 10 minutes to cover the distance from the 40k timing mat.
That is the last time I look at my watch until I cross the finish line. I increase my leg turn over and just “leg it” towards the finish. With just under half a mile to go, I turn left back up the hill towards the University. Gasping like a 90 year old smoker I crest the hill feeling there is nothing left in the tank, but remembering from this point on it’s a downhill quarter mile dash to the finish line. I have no idea where the energy came from or how I managed to keep pushing hard up to the finish line. I hear an announcer on the loud speakers but have no idea what is being said. I glance up at the timer on the finish gantry and it shows 3:10:20 as I cross the line.
I’ve stopped my watch but dare not look. The disappointment of missing out after the suffering over the last mile or so would be hard to take. I collect my goody bag and medal from the volunteers and finally look down at my watch. 3:09:22. It’s an 18 second PB and I’m over the moon.
Bag collected from the bag drop and then I get changed in a toilet before catching a bus back into York for celebratory beers.
It hasn’t stopped raining for the last 4 hours and there’s no sign of it stopping anytime soon. I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the volunteers and supporters who braved those conditions. Especially my wife and son and fellow Harriers 🙂
Considering this wasn’t a race I was planning on running and that my training hadn’t been as dedicated as I had for previous marathons this race really could not have gone any better. Fingers crossed now, that the time is good enough to be accepted as Good For Age for London 2020!